RTTNews - The Hong Kong stock market has ended in negative territory now in consecutive trading days, surrendering nearly 350 points or 2 percent in the process. The Hang Seng Index fell below the 17,200-point plateau, and now analysts predict that the market could test 17,000 points at the opening of trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is pessimistic, with the financial shares expected to come under pressure after it was announced that Britain's AAA credit rating might be in jeopardy. Downbeat economic data reinforces the negative sentiment. The European markets finished sharply lower, as did the U.S. markets - and the Asian bourses are also predicted to take a hit.

The Hang Seng finished sharply lower on Thursday, as financials and oil stocks suffered heavy losses. For the day, the index lost 276.35 points or 1.58 percent to close at 17,199.49 after trading between 17,172.64 and 17,415.26 on turnover of 60.939 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the decliners, HSBC Holdings shed 3.21 percent, while CNOOC fell 1.15 percent, Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical slipped 0.67 percent, Sinopec lost 0.77 percent, PetroChina shed 0.35 percent, Sinotruk lost 4.57 percent, China Motor Bus Company slid 1.80 percent, SOHO China shed 3.21 percent, Sun Hung Kai Properties was down 2.85 percent, Cheung Kong eased 1.19 percent, Hutchison Whampoa lost 3.13 percent, Agile Property Holdings was off 0.49 percent, China Life Insurance fell 1.79 percent, Ping An Insurance lost 2.48 percent and PICC Property & Casualty slid 2.11 percent.

Finishing higher, China Oilfield Service added 1.89 percent, CNPC gained 2.78 percent, Dongfeng Motor Group gained 8.49 percent and Henderson Land Development added 0.74 percent.

Wall Street offers a negative lead as stocks finished Thursday's session significantly lower after mild losses in the previous session. The major averages all closed in firmly negative territory as trader optimism dampened following the release of largely disappointing economic data.

The retreat came on the heels of another uninspiring jobs report from the U.S Labor Department for the week ended May 16. The data showed that first time jobless claims slowed but continuing claims rose for yet another week, reaching a new historic high. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's business activity index for the first half of May showed improvement but rose by less than expected, further mitigating risk appetite.

Some of the pessimism was moderated by forward looking indicators for April from the Conference Board, which came in slightly better than expected, raising some economic prospects for the coming months.

The broad-based losses on the day came as traders did some profit taking following the recent run-up seen in equities. In addition, with no considerable news on tap for Friday's session and markets closed on Monday for Memorial Day, equity markets worldwide saw considerable pullbacks.

The major averages opened notably lower following the jobs report and lingered in negative territory throughout the day, before finishing just off of their daily lows. Subsequently, the Dow closed down by 129.91 points or 1.54 percent to finish at 8292.13, the NASDAQ finished down by 32.59 points or 1.89 percent to end at 1695.25, and the S&P 500 also fell, closing down by 15.14 points or 1.68 percent to finish at 888.33.

In economic news, Hong Kong's composite consumer price index increased 0.6 percent year-on-year in April, slowing from a 1.2 percent rise in March, the Census and Statistics Department said Thursday. Economists expected the consumer prices to rise 1 percent.

The statistical office said the year-on-year increase in the consumer price index was affected by the government's one-off relief measures, in particular the implementation of electricity charge subsidy. The underlying inflation rate decreased to 1.9 percent in April from 2.6 percent in March, mainly due to decline in food prices and private housing rentals.

In the February-April period, consumer prices fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent, after remaining almost unchanged in the three-month period ended March.

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